Google Can Re-Order Your Search Results

I stumbled across an article about Google on Engadget. It describes Google’s victory in court to arrange search results in any way that they would like to. This is a very important piece of tech news, as it affects virtually every user of Google’s search engine. Rather than showing results that are most common or similar to what a user is searching for, Google can decide to promote websites it is affiliated with, or to not promote competitors’ sites. Maybe for now this isn’t a huge deal, and who knows for how long something like this will go on. But, if this does continue for a while, we could see an even bigger divide and competition between tech users and companies. Imagine a nearly impossible scenario, where you search for a “Microsoft Help” web page and your Google results have any actual content from Microsoft listed on page 2, rather than on top of page 1. Highly unlikely, but important to think about.

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Tech Blogs I Follow

There are 4 tech-news blogs and sites that I have been using as my primary sites for information. These are Engadget, TechCrunch, CNN Tech, and Gizmodo. These sites offer a wide range of articles and information from a variety of perspectives and applications.

Engadget Logo (2013) - Public Domain

Engadget Logo (2013) – Public Domain

Engadget and TechCrunch are likely the two sites that I use the most. I find that their articles interest me and appeal to me more than any other sites. They are both sites with a wide range of topics from consumer electronics, to tech company news, to wild and amazing applications of technology in the world.

Tech Crunch Logo (2013) - Public Domain

Tech Crunch Logo (2013) – Public Domain

These sites seem to approach articles in a very readable manner, and I imagine that they are some of the top sites for a variety of different bloggers and techies. If there was a Goldilocks metaphor for tech sites, I would say that these two are ‘just right’. Not too much news, not too much consumer-leaning information.

CNN Logo - Public Domain

CNN Logo – Public Domain

CNN Tech is a very ‘newsy’ approach to tech news. To use the Goldilocks metaphor once more, this would be the bed too hard, or porridge too cold. CNN Tech is definitely a great source for seeing how the government is using technology to alleviate issues across the nation. It’s also a great source for actual performance of tech companies in the market. I find that I rarely use articles from CNN to actually write about in my blog, but that it helps me to have a more broad perspective of tech news when it comes down to writing my commentary.

Gizmodo Logo - Public Domain

Gizmodo Logo – Public Domain

Lastly, Gizmodo is a great site for anyone who is a consumer of electronics. While not entirely centered around the user experience of technology, Gizmodo’s articles are often related to consumer electronics, media, and deals. The Kinja deals section from Gizmodo is one of my favorites to check because you really can get some good deals. Unfortunately, my wallet doesn’t always agree with my logic. Gizmodo really highlights some of the best and (in my opinion) coolest nuggets across the internet. Not everything is fun and games, though, and Gizmodo definitely does have serious journalistic articles as well.

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I, Not Robot

reCAPTCHA - Public Domain

reCAPTCHA – Public Domain

I’m sure that everyone has experienced the nuisance of having to prove they are not some sort of spamming computer by entering a code into a CAPTCHA window. It rarely seems worth it, and sometimes the little box is so scratched or grayed out that you misspell the code and have to do it all again. Well, it appears Google has decided to restructure CAPTCHA into a service called reCAPTCHA. According to TechCrunch, reCAPTCHA provides internet users with a simple check box to click that says ‘I am not a robot.’  Google also announced that they may require the user to solve an image puzzle after clicking the first box. This would be finding an image that corresponds to the given image in the reCAPTCHA box. I think that’s way less of a pain than the old version, but some users may disagree.

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Google Makes Your Contacts Much Easier

Google has announced a new contact management system that will help to keep your contacts in order. It is always a pain when you’re trying to locate a specific contact on your phone or online but the contact isn’t in the list or application that you thought it was. I first came across this idea in the news, but continued on to the official Gmail blog article to learn more about it.

One feature that I really enjoy is the deletion of duplicate contacts. You’re able to harmonize a phone contact, e-mail contact, and Google Hangouts contact in a simple way. This way, it will be easier to find that specific person you’re trying to reach.

 

Google’s new contact layout with previous conversations

In addition to this, I quite enjoy the feature where you can look at your recent conversations, phone calls, and meetings that you’ve had with this contact. That means if you need to refresh your memory about a conversation you’ve had recently with a client before having to respond with an answer, you can. All of this creates a great experience and one that, frankly, I woud’ve expected to exist already.

 

For now the new Google Contacts is still in preview mode, but should be in full swing soon.

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Garmin’s New Forerunner: I don’t run, but if I did…

Garmin's new line of Forerunner watches.

Garmin’s new line of Forerunner watches, available late October or early November 2015

Garmin has announced three new exercise smartwatches in an already over-saturated market. The Forerunner 230, 235, and 630 are upgraded versions of previous Garmin models with a competitive set of new features. I’m particularly impressed by the Forerunner 630, which will appeal to fitness freaks and runners (not me). The 630 measures some very specific things such as stride length, lactate threshold, and can even tell you what your overall level of stress is based on your heart rate variability while running.

Garmin’s decision to get into the smartwatch market is a great shift in their strategy as a company. With more and more auto manufacturers offering built-in GPS systems in their cars, Garmin has decided to focus on some of the more niche market uses of GPS technology. This includes activities such as geo-caching, cycling, hiking, and running. Now, I mentioned that the smartwatch market is saturated, but I find that some of the features offered in Garmin’s watches keep them very competitive as they appeal to a specific subset of fitness watch wearers. It will be interesting to see what sort of reviews these watches will receive from tech blogs and fitness enthusiasts, and to see if the watches can be successful.

For more reading about the new Garmin Forerunner watches, check out these articles:

TechCrunch
Canadian Running

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GrandTen Distilling: Innovative Alcohol Made in Southie

Article follows photos.

Recently I had the opportunity to check out a local distillery in South Boston called GrendTen Distilling. GrandTen was an idea conceived by Matthew Nuernberger in 2011. Matt and his cousin Spencer McMinn started the venture with the goal of creating local and well designed craft spirits. GrandTen offers a variety of spirits from vodka and gin to whiskey and liqueurs such as their Almandine, Angelica, and Craneberry. While offering a variety of spirits, GrandTen’s quality remains top notch.

“GrandTen is a name from a previous company I had called GrandTen Projects,” says Nuernberger. “The idea of GrandTen Distilling was a ‘placeholder’ while deciding what the name would be. My cousin said ‘I like the name GrandTen’ and so we kept it.” The distillery first started selling products in 2012, and Nuernberger has hired a few more staff in order to help around the distillery.

Tours are held every Saturday from noon to 4 p.m. and are open to the public. On my tour at 3 p.m., there were quite a few people present, and it seems that GrandTen’s tours are picking up in popularity with the local audience. In fact, there are around 50 – 80 people who visit the brewery on a weekly basis, according to Nuernberger. Matt explained to me that his spirits are available in the Greater Boston area and beyond thanks to a deal with a distributor.”Asking your local bartender is the best way to find our spirits in your local bars,” he says.

Nuernberger, who received his MBA from Babson College, says that the spirit which has performed the best has fluctuated over time. GrandTen’s South Boston Irish Whiskey was launched last November, and it’s expected to do particularly well in the upcoming holiday season.

I met Kacey Clark, a fellow distillery tourist, at the GrandTen Distillery and asked him a few questions about his experience there. “I first learned about GrandTen when a friend brought me a bottle of the South Boston Whiskey for my birthday,” says Clark. “I love their products. And the Fire Puncher Vodka is my favorite so far, but there are several products I haven’t tried yet.” After the tasting, there is an opportunity for visitors to pick up a few bottles from GrandTen. The bottles generally range from $25 – $40. The GrandTen spirit portfolio is as follows:

Wire Works American Gin – A blend of spruce, pine cone, kumquat, spice, juniper, and Angelica root. This gin has a spice to it, and is different than your traditional London Gin.
South Boston Irish Whiskey – This whiskey is made in Ireland but blended in South Boston for a unique character. It goes well on the rocks, or mixed in a variety of cocktails.
Fire Puncher Vodka – A unique spicy vodka. This vodka is distilled with chili peppers which gives it a bit of a bite on the tongue.
Wire Works American Gin Special Reserve – Though not entirely different than its brother, the Wire Works Special Reserve is aged in oak bourbon barrels to give it a distinct flavor.
Medford Rum – New England yeast mixed with molasses matured in American oak barrels. Medford Rum is new to the GrandTen lineup.
Fire Puncher Vodka Black – The original is spiced with chipotle peppers. Add to that the flavor of cacao and you have a chocolate chipotle vodka. This is one of the most unique flavored liquors I’ve ever tasted. This spirit makes great White or Black Russians.
Craneberry – A liqueur made with Cape Cod cranberries. Craneberry is the spelling of ‘cranberry’ from early settlers. In the upcoming holiday season, Craneberry would be a great addition to other seasonal liqueurs.
Almandine – An almond liqueur aged in American oak barrels. It truly tastes of almonds, with a hint of vanilla.
Angelica – Angelica root is not new to the world of spirits. According to GrandTen, it has been used for centuries as an ingredient in distilling. This spirit has a slight licorice flavor and is complemented with a variety of spice and citrus notes.

To get a better idea about craft distilling and how it compares to craft brewing, I spoke with Bill Owens, Founder of the American Distilling Institute in Hayward, California. Many people in the United States are familiar with craft beer, but my trip to GrandTen was my first time experiencing craft distilling. I hadn’t often heard of craft distilling, either. I wondered why the popularity may be different. “Craft breweries are 30 years into their business” says Bill “but we’re at just 10 years.” With these distilleries being at such a young age, the production amounts are nowhere near some of the larger playres.

What makes a distillery defined as ‘craft’ is defined by the amount of bottles produced and sold. “52,000 cases per year is the limit for craft distilling,” Bill told me “and if you’re selling 20,000, you’re a millionaire.” Smaller distilleries, like GrandTen, will produce anywhere from 2,000 – 3,000 cases per year, meaning there’s lots of room for growth. But according to Bill you shouldn’t expect to see your favorite GrandTen spirit to be sold in a liquor store in California. “There are 320 million people in this country. There’s no need for GrandTen to try to sell their products in other regions. They have so much room to grow in Boston” Bill says.

So what can you do to help grow the wonderful business of craft distilling? Bill’s answer is simple. “Buy local” he says. “There are plenty of great distilleries right in your region.” Based on Bill’s comments and my experiences, it would appear that craft spirits, not unlike craft beer, create a strong community. The customers are committed to the distillery and the distillery is committed to the local regions. GrandTen is no exception to this.

While Nuernberger has lived all over the country, he has spent the last 10 years in Boston and it seems that he has a passion for keeping his distillery right where it is. “I wanted to be accessible. I wanted it to be easy for people to get to the distillery whether they’re walking or driving. I wanted to be a part of Boston, and a part of the family that is Boston.”

Be sure to check out the GrandTen Distillery and American Distilling Institute websites if you’d like to learn more. GrandTen has tastings and tours every Saturday. On Fridays, you can enjoy another sampling-style event called Friday Night Flights. The distillery can accommodate up to 30 people on distillery tours throughout the week. If you’d like to plan a distillery tour with your group, contact GrandTen at info@grandten.com

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PlayStation is Almost Legal Drinking Age

I stumbled across this article on Engadget talking about PlayStation’s 20th birthday. In 1994, Sony launched their original PlayStation video game console. I remember owning one of these consoles when I was younger, and I recall wondering what Sony was doing in the video game business. To be fair, I was 7 when this was released and was all-too into Sonic the Hedgehog and Mario. Anything other than my experiences on Sega and Nintendo systems was downright foreign to me. Just 7 years later, Microsoft became the strange new name in video games with its release of the Xbox.

Now looking back 20 years, it’s hard to imagine a video game world without Sony. Many electronics companies tried to compete in the video game industry over the years, but not often did many succeed. In fact, even some who were notably successful saw failure (Atari, Sega). So it is indeed impressive that PlayStation has been as successful as it has for all of these years. It takes a backseat behind Nintendo in age, however. Nintendo has been part of the gaming scene since its release of the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1983 (Japan) and 1985 (US).

It will be interesting to see if all three of these companies will still be making consoles and games 10, 20, years from now and into the future.

Go to their websites to learn more about some awesome gaming!

Nintendo
Sony PlayStation
Microsoft Xbox

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